Disease of the Week
by Tennis Elbow Jones
|Tennis Elbow Jones|
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear old friend, Mr.
John Lee Hooker, last week. John was one of the greatest to ever
strap a guitar over his shoulder, and that wobbly sort of baritone
voice of his-it conveyed so much emotion, but so much authority.
John Lee and I sort of had a running bet as to which one of us
would depart for the other side first. I remember back in the 60's,
we were talking about the meaning of life and all that philosophical
stuff, and he said to me "Tennis Elbow, you're gonna live to
be 100 years old. You'ze one of those people who is a survivor,
no matter what life throws at ya, you always bounce right back up
again. (Perhaps I should have auditioned for the popular contemporary
television program of the same name).
Another memory of John Lee that springs to mind relates to this
week's disease-the gout. G.O.G., I used to call it- good ole gout.
Gout is a systemic disease caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals
in the joints of the body, causing inflammation, swelling and pain,
particularly in the feet, which, needless to say, are very important
to a blues man's sense of timing.
The gout is a very unheralded disease now a days, what with higher
profile and more terminal diseases stealing the limelight and advances
in medical technology giving us improved treatments and medication,
but back when I had it, there was gout going on everywhere, and
the attacks would last for two months at a time if they were a day.
The worst I ever had it was the summer of 64. I was doing a series
of summer festivals in the south with John Lee, it was about 120
degrees in the shade, and my right foot was so gouty, why I accidentally
dropped a guitar pick on it backstage and
I can still
hear B.B. King's mischievous cackle as I rolled on the ground in
Anyways, just coming out on stage for my set was like running the
Boston Marathon. I sat down to play, which like John Lee, has always
been my customary pose, and tried to forget about the pain for an
hour or so. But 20 minutes into the set, I was really getting into
the music, totally lost in a 10 minute solo, when I momentarily
forgot about the G.O.G. and, encouraged by the alcohol fuelled crowd,
I very stupidly tried to stand up.
Sweet Georgia Brown! It was like 20 million volts were being zapped
through my foot. Instinctively, I immediately shifted my weight
to my left foot, which this particular bout with the gout had managed
to remain goutless, but I did it so abruptly that I almost fell
on my ass. Somehow, in a deft display of athleticism, I managed
to keep my balance. Here I was, hopping around on my left foot mid-solo
(didn't flub a note, I might add), looking like one of the Backstreet
Boys, and the aforementioned beer-soaked crowd thought it was part
of my choreographed routine.
The closest I ever got to choreography was drinking a shot of amaretto
in unison with the rhythm section after the show.
But I digress-the crowd is lapping my James Brown impression up,
even my bass player, Slappy Garcia, had joined in on this gout-inspired
dance, and I wind up finishing Dead Man's Blues on my left
leg, hopping up and down with the beat like I was riding a pogo
stick. John Lee was on after me and the first thing he says to the
crowd is, "Let's hear it one more time for the Tennis Elbow
Bounce!!!!," to wild cheers from the crowd.
John Lee Hooker was responsible for coining that very clever pun
that became my best known move (some would say gimmick) of my live
show, the famous 'Tennis Elbow Bounce.'
This bounce is for you, old friend.
Tennis Elbow Jones is an 85-year old Blues legend best known
for his seminal 1963 album, the Should be Dead Blues. His
doctors estimate that he is afflicted with approximately 65 per
cent of all diseases, ailments and conditions known to humanity.
Posted on June 29th, 2001